Unstuffy ‘Candida’ to open on IRT stage

By Marion Garmel

Scott Wentworth lives in terror of one thing. When people learn what play he is co-directing and appearing in at the Indana Repertory Theatre, they will say: “Oh, God. Another one of those dull George Bernard Shaw plays where people sit in one room and talk, talk, talk.” Not so, says the dark-haired, slightly graying actor-director who just finished directing A Christmas Carol at the IRT. He and his wife, Marion Adler, co-star in Candida, a satire of domestic bliss by the man considered the best playwright in English after Shakespeare. Wentworth plays the pompous Rev. James Morrell, who never doubts the love of his wife, Candida, until Marchbanks, an 18-year-old poet and nobleman, enters their lives and shatters his satisfying existence. Who will Candida choose, the solid Morrell or the romantic Marchbanks? Shaw considered Candida his answer to Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, where Nora slams the door on domestic life and walks out on her husband.

Timely today

But it’s more than that, says Wentworth. It’s about the inter-relationship between the characters: How men treat women and their roles in a marriage. “For a play written 100 years ago, it speaks to us in ways that are amazingly modern,” he said. “It’s a comedy that still makes us laugh and delights us.” Wentworth admits that, in holding up Shaw as a classic writer, we sometimes get “dry, musty, over-intellectualized” versions of his plays. But that is because Shaw was a split personality: Half creative writer; half critic. “He was a very good critic, writing about his plays as though they were written by someone else,” Wentworth said. But for Wentworth, it’s the creative half of Shaw that matters. “As an actor, it’s less important to get your head around it than it is to get your heart around it,” he said. “It’s a great fallacy that actors have to understand their characters. Shaw understood them, so their intellectual energy is there on the stage.”

Second to ‘Pygmalion’

Candida is one of Shaw’s earliest plays and his second most popular after Pygmalion, which became the musical My Fair Lady. “And both are about men and women and what makes a satisfactory relationship. Both are emotionally satisfying and intellectually stimulating,” Wentworth said. “And for Shaw it’s very short,” he added. “A well-made play in three acts that feels like three sitcoms on TV. Three half hours and each act has its own way of looking at things. Like Seinfeld, you keep wondering, who will come through the door next?” Janet Allen is co-directing because, said Wentworth, once he decided to cast himself as the Rev. Morrell, he needed another set of eyes to look at the total picture.

Talked into role

“Janet always talked to me about playing this role,” he said. “And this is a difficult time for casting, over the Christmas holidays. Shaw says Morrell is 40. Usually people of my ripe old age -- he will turn 43 in February -- are home with their families.” Allen and Wentworth co-directed Hedda Gabler at the IRT in 1991. Both worked at the IRT in the 1980s when Tom Haas was artistic director. “We sort of grew up theatrically here and we share some of the same ideas,” Wentworth said. “So it’s easy for us to work together. Wentworth and Adler, who celebrated their 11th anniversary in September, spent the holidays in Indianapolis with their son, Ned, who is 3. They met at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada, Adler’s native country. “When we met, I was just starting to write,” said Adler, who studied opera in Canada and acting in London. She had written a cabaret show for herself and was performing it in a little club. “Scott sat in the back every night and laughed his head off.” Six months later they were married. They often work together as actors, actor-director or, in recent years, as playwrights.

Team on and off stage

They are co-authors of two musicals, Gunmetal Blues, which was performed off-Broadway, and Enter the Guardsman, which was named “musical of the year” in 1996 in an international competition in Denmark. The couple’s entry -- eight songs and four scenes on tape -- was one of 300 entries in the competition. “And to our absolute amazement, we won the top prize,” Wentworth said. The awards presentation -- with four of their songs orchestrated for a 60-piece orchestra -- was televised for European TV with Peter Ustinov as host. As a result, they had a production last summer in London and are holding this winter open for a possible New York production. Wentworth’s next project, in the spring, will be directing Richard III at Bard on the Beach in Vancouver, where Shakespeare is performed under a tent in a rocky park abutting the Pacific Ocean. “The tent is open and through the back you can see the ocean,” Wentworth said.


George Bernard Shaw
Scott Wentworth, Marion Adler, Sean Arbuckle, Raymond Fox, Kia Christina Heath and Raymond Fry, co-directed by Wentworth and Janet Allen.
Indiana Repertory Theatre, 140 W Washington St.
Previews, 7:30 Tues through Thursday, opening at 7:30p.m. Friday and continuing through Jan. 31, various days and times.
$17.50 - $33.50. $40 for opening night gala. discounts for students and seniors. Children $8.25 on Sundays.
From the Indianapolis Star, January 4, 1998 issue.

© 1998 Lindy

Geordie Johnson pages
Chris Potter hockey pics (1997)